After an uncertain summer, life is very good if you’re an Arsenal fan following an emphatic start to this WSL season. Having to play Man City and Chelsea, your two fellow title rivals, in the opening few games is as tough as it gets for a new manager. Jonas Eidevall has steered his way through the first month or two in charge of the Gunners magnificently, they have won every game under the Swede after all.
Arsenal’s form has come even with some elite attacking talent primarily being on the bench too. The partnership between Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, a.k.a. Meadama, has been a joy to watch. Then Eidevall has been able to turn to the likes of Caitlin Foord and Mana Iwabuchi from the bench, not to mention that USWNT star Tobin Heath is now in the mix too. Talking of Mana and the Arsenal game this Saturday sees her go up against her former club. She was far and away the best player for Aston Villa last season as they narrowly avoided relegation out of the WSL. The World Cup winner’s career at Arsenal may be in its’ infancy but she has already shown her class, scoring a screamer in the Champions League as well against rivals Tottenham last night.
Aston Villa may have lost Mana but there finest acquisition is in the managerial position. Not only is Carla Ward a superb, young coach but she also arrives from rivals Birmingham City. Whilst Birmingham are rock bottom of the WSL table with three losses to their name so far this term, Villa are flying high under Ward having won two and drawn one thus far. Villa began the WSL season with a 2-1 win at home over newly promoted Leicester City and after scoring in said victory, Remi Allen was again on target in the next game. It was a 1-1 draw away at West Ham and Allen’s added time strike rescued her side a point. Last time out, following on from the international break that is, a cagey affair against Hope Powell’s Brighton was decided by Aussie striker Emily Gielnik just after the half-time.
As previously mentioned, Arsenal have had a perfect start to this WSL under Eidevall including marvellous wins against direct rivals. Their first game of the season saw them welcome Emma Hayes’ Chelsea to the Emirates and it certainly lived up to the occasion. Miedema was of course on target and Beth Mead chipped in with a brace, Erin Cuthbert and Pernille Harder scoring for Chelsea in a 3-2 win for the Gunners. Them beating Reading 4-0 wasn’t the most surprising thing ever, but to then see them put five past Man City was quite the shock. Gareth Taylor’s team have had a very poor start to the season, including losing twice in the WSL already as well as getting knocked out of the Champions League. Kim Little scored twice with the other scorers being Viv, Katie McCabe and then the cherry on the top from Leah Williamson.
Despite their superb start, Arsenal will know not to get ahead of themselves and if they do, you best believe Villa will be there to bring them back down to earth. Man City have a lot of injuries to contend with and Chelsea are missing a few players too, but Arsenal are blessed with a fairly clean bill of health. Lotte Wubben-Moy hasn’t played as much this season in the WSL due to the return of the experienced Jen Beattie. Tobin Heath may well start again this weekend having started last night and Steph Catley has become a regular too under Eidevall. There are so many attacking options that it seems unfair to leave someone like Mana or Caitlin Foord out, but that is the issue when your squad is so elite.
When the pair met late last season in the WSL, Villa left Meadow Park with a point and so them getting a result certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Villa themselves are at full-strength or near enough anyway, Megan Sargeant returned to the heart of defence last time out following a short spell on the sidelines. Carla Ward and her players are on a high right now and they will certainly be determined to upset the apple cart. Arsenal on the other hand will be looking to continuing their winning run as they seek another WSL title for their brimming cabinet.